Pakistani authorities detained three American embassy officials Monday afternoon in the city of Peshawar after weapons were found in their vehicles, police said.
The diplomats, accompanied by three Pakistani nationals, were stopped at a routine checkpoint where they refused to have their vehicles searched, police said. The Pakistan police searched anyway and found assault rifles, pistols and a large quantity of ammunition. The three Pakistanis were charged with illegal possession of weapons, police said.
The incident comes at a time of deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistan because of the President Barak Obama's campaign of drone attacks on Pakistan.
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China's Xinhua News reports:
Police in northwest Pakistan on Monday confiscated arms recovered from two vehicles of U.S. embassy officials, police said.
The U.S. embassy officials, traveling in two cars, were stopped on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, for illegally carrying weapons, a police officer said.
They were detained at the main entry point on Peshawar- Islamabad Motorway and the vehicles and weapons were shifted to a nearby police station for investigation.
TV footage showed the foreigners' weapons include pistols and six automatic rifles. The police said that the U.S. diplomats did not have a permit for carrying any of them.
The U.S. Consul General Mary Richard reached the site after receiving information and said that the weapons can be seized but the foreigners should not be taken into custody.
The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa issued new instructions to the provincial administration last week where it listed a change in rules for diplomatic heads of mission and the consular staff.
The notice said that diplomats, consulars and members of diplomatic missions cannot carry weapons unless given express permission by the government.
The U.S. diplomats had been detained in the past for trying to illegally enter Peshawar, where all foreigners are required to get special permission.
Officials say that security agencies are now closely monitoring movement of U.S. diplomats after the U.S. officials admitted in May last year that the CIA had set up a secret base in Abbotabad where the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden.
The arrest of an undercover CIA agent Raymond Davis in the city of Lahore in February last year also raised concerns about the U.S. intelligence illegal activities in Pakistan. Davis had killed two Pakistani citizens.
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Pakistan's DAWN Newspaper reports:
According to police sources, the “suspicious cars” were stopped for a routine check at the Peshawar Motorway toll plaza when the weapons were discovered.
Police sources told Dawn.com that the weapons included 4 M4 assault rifles with 36 magazines and 4 pistols with 30 magazines.
US Consul General Mary Richard also reached the police station where the Americans were detained for questioning, urging officials to seize weapons but not to detain the foreigners.
The US Consul General however refused to give any comments on the arrests when approached by our reporter.
Reuters news agency reported a US embassy official as saying: “These officials were returning from a visit to Malakand University where they were preparing for an English education event for underprivileged children. They had all proper permissions but were stopped when returning to Peshawar.”
The six detained include three foreigners described as US diplomats, as well as three Pakistanis, which included a security guard and two drivers.
According to recent instruction from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, foreign diplomats are prohibited from carrying weapons or travelling to prohibited areas in the province unless expressly permitted by the provincial government with a No Objection Certificate (NOC).
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